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Alcohol counterfeiting is a growing problem, and it is one to keep an eye on because it often results in a fatality. Two years ago when the whole world was fighting a pandemic, Cameroon was dealing with its own share of problems. In March 2020, amidst the pandemonium of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities in the Central African country announced a surge in excessive drinking, and the related increase in deaths arising from the intake of fake alcohol – Fake alcoholic drinks were seized from 200 shops and 350 bars across Cameroon.

More than 80 people died owing to the consumption of fake alcohol in Indonesia in 2018 and just a couple of months ago, in December 2021, at least 22 people died in Istanbul and 16 others were hospitalized in serious conditions after the consumption of fake alcohol. This made authorities intensify a crackdown on counterfeit drinks across Turkey.

Counterfeiting in the alcoholic beverages industry is so wide-spread that the industry tops the list of EUR 230 million fake food and drinks seizures in global operations. Counterfeiters are taking advantage of trusted alcohol packaging and refilling such with illegally brewed or lower quality drinks to trick consumers.

The Spread of Alcohol Counterfeiting

Cases of alcohol poisoning have been reported since 1976 – However, according to healthcare professionals and many government officials, there has been a significant increase in the number of deaths tied to the adulteration of alcohol products in recent years. We could blame it on months of house arrest as a result of the COVID lockdowns that increased people’s consumption of alcohol – 2020 has been recorded as one of the deadliest years for alcoholic poisoning.

When we take a drink from our favourite provider of wine, beer, spirit, or any alcohol of our choice, most often we are very certain about the content and where it comes from. But given the increase in adulteration, trusting the packaging of a bottle blindly can become disastrous. Counterfeiters have realized the windfall profits they can make by taking bottles of real drinks and filling them with fake alcohol, and then selling them to gullible customers. The increase in the number of eCommerce sites and people purchasing hard beverages from these sites have further strengthened the operation of these criminals. As per a report by the Financial Times, a third of all alcohol production worldwide is illicit, and most of these illegal businesses are based out of Africa or China.

Alcohol beverage counterfeiters conduct their activities in various ways. Some of these people re-fill bottles with tainted or adulterated products, or they copy the design of original bottles and plaster original labels on them. Part of their modus operandi is to market their fake products at festivals to flog their fake spirits to young people and other patrons.

The magnitude of the problem can be ascertained from the fact that between December 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, more than 9,800 tones and 26.4 million liters of food and drink estimating 230 million euro were confiscated during some 50,000 checks at shops, markets, airport, seaports, and industrial estates.

The Danger of Alcohol Counterfeiting

Fake alcohol can be highly detrimental to health and have hazardous consequences – The inappropriate ingredients used to make them can lead to nausea, blindness, and even death. Counterfeited beverages flout the standards that regulatory bodies have put in to ensure that consumers are safe. The standards are usually laid down to ensure that consumers to not suffer heavy intoxication, indigestion, and poisoning.

Beyond the health hazards, counterfeited alcohol is harmful to beverage manufacturers and the governments alike. The trade of counterfeited alcohol results in revenue loss for the manufacturer and also ruins the brand image (sometimes beyond repair). Similarly, alcohols are mostly highly taxed by governments, thus the trade of illegal alcohol results in the loss of tax revenue for nations.

How to Recognize and Avoid Fake Alcohol

Recognizing fake alcohol is no rocket science. All it requires is a certain amount of vigilance. Following a few steps before the purchase or consumption of alcohol can help in identifying counterfeits and avoiding the risks caused by them. Here are a few things to remember when purchasing any alcoholic beverage:

– One of the best ways to avoid the risk is to buy drinks only from trusted retailers.

– Smelling the alcohol before consumption and avoiding drinking foul-smelling alcohol should be practiced.

– It is important to avoid alcohol brand names not heard before.

– One needs to ensure the bottle is sealed properly and avoid drinking from a bottle not sealed properly.

– Checking the bottle properly for misprints or design errors that hint at counterfeiting is a must.

The Easy Solution

Despite the afore-mentioned ways of checking for fake alcohols, majority of them can never be detected. It is not always possible to detect printing or design errors. Banking on trusted retailers might not always be an option. Only efforts by manufacturers of alcoholic beverages can help in foiling counterfeiting attempts of illegal traders. To prevent the misuse of their brand name as well as save lives from the fatal effects of counterfeited alcohol, manufacturers need to implement strong brand protection on their protect.

Cypheme is a globally trusted technology that brands across the globe are vouching for. Powered by Artificial Intelligence, the Cypheme solutions are being used reliably by brands and governments because of the Security and Simplicity offered. The only anti-counterfeit solution with ISO 12931 Qualification, the labels have saved over 75,000 lives and eliminated 10 million fake products. The labels are supported by very efficient Artificial Intelligence that verifies a product’s authenticity through unique fingerprint labels known as Noise Print. The tamper proof labels do not only protect brands from counterfeiters, they also help in finding counterfeiters through geolocation.

Alcohol counterfeiting is rampant and highly perilous. With an array of brand protection solutions available in the market, it is high time beverage manufacturers started acting for real.

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